Rabid Fox Bites Florida Woman in Front of Children: 'Would Not Let Go'

A Florida woman was bitten by a rabid fox in front of her children in Weston, Broward County, according to reports.

Annie Mathew told CBS Miami that they encountered the grey fox when they arrived at their home in Weston, a suburban city located around 30 miles northwest of Miami.

After arriving at the property, Mathew noticed "something" going under her car.

"You could hear a high-pitch cry, kinda like a quacking, a big cry, and I told the girls not to get out of the car," Mathew told CBS for an article published on Sunday.

The mother then got out the car to check what was underneath, which is when the fox sunk its teeth into her ankle and a struggle ensued.

"I was shaking my leg and it was still holding on to my leg. It would not let go, it had a grip and would not let go, it was just hanging off my feet," Mathew said.

"It was just like shaking and fighting with it and hitting it with my bag, my phone, and when it did break off after almost close to a minute it ran underneath the car and tried to come in through the garage."

The fox exhibited signs of being rabid and the animal later tested positive for rabies. Mathew is now undergoing lifesaving post-exposure treatment, which involves the administration of a series of shots.

Rabies is a serious viral disease that affects the brain and spinal cord of mammals. The virus is usually transmitted when people are bitten by an infected animal.

In humans, the disease is almost always fatal once symptoms appear. In fact, it has the highest mortality rate of any known disease. Despite this, rabies is preventable, although individuals who are exposed to the virus must receive treatment as soon as possible in order to prevent the development of disease.

"I can't explain the fear I have," Mathew said. "The protocol for the rabies vaccine is day one you go get a series of shots. Day three you go in for more shots. Then seven, which is today, I went back into the ER to get shots. And I have to go back in on the 29th to get more shots. But, I worry something could go wrong and we won't know about it for weeks to months if I get it."

Individuals who are exposed to the virus typically do not experience any symptoms until the virus reaches the brain, which usually takes three to 12 weeks, although this period may be as short as a week, or as long as a year or more.

Mathew said the animal had been spotted in the area a week prior to the attack but nothing was done about it.

"Florida Fish and Wildlife said they never got a report of any of it and then to hear that the animal was acting demented and sick in the head, I can't explain the fear I have," Mathew said.

Several Weston neighborhoods had already been placed under a rabies alert prior to the latest attack.

The Florida Department of Health in Broward issued the alert, which is active for 60 days, on September 17 after a fox tested positive for rabies.

"All residents and visitors in Broward County should be aware that rabies is present in the wild animal population and domestic animals are at risk if not vaccinated. The public is asked to maintain a heightened awareness that rabies is active in Broward County. Please be aware that rabies can also occur outside the alert area," a statement from the department said.

"An animal with rabies could infect domestic animals that have not been vaccinated against rabies. All domestic animals should be vaccinated against rabies and all wildlife contact should be avoided, particularly raccoons, bats, foxes, skunks, otters, bobcats, and coyotes."

People who have been bitten or scratched by wild or domestic animals should seek medical attention and report the injury to the department at 954-467-4700.

The latest incident comes soon after a man in Illinois became the first person to die from rabies in the state since 1954, according to the state's health department.

The man in his 80s refused post-exposure rabies treatment after waking up one day to find a bat on his neck that later tested positive for rabies. He subsequently died from the disease.

Newsweek has contacted the Florida Department of Health for comment.

A grey fox
Stock image showing a grey fox. A woman was bitten by a rabid grey fox in Weston, Florida, and is now receiving treatment to prevent the development of rabies. iStock